Flouride and Your Child's Health
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element on the outer layer of your child’s teeth that is essential not only for the development of those teeth but for protecting them against acid attacks and cavities. Every day, some fluoride is lost (a process is known as demineralization) when the teeth are exposed to plaque and bacterial acids as well as acidic foods and beverages. The lost fluoride can also be replaced. At Douglas L. Park, DDS, Pediatric Dentistry, we can help.
How Does Fluoride Protect Teeth?
While the teeth are strong, the acids that the protective outer layer (the enamel) is subjected to every day can cause a significant amount of damage. Acids that attack your child’s teeth can come directly from the foods and drinks they eat (citrus juices, sodas, etc.). The acids can also occur as a byproduct of the oral bacteria that live within your child’s mouth. Oral bacteria thrive on sugars found in your child’s mouth. As they eat, they produce acids. In general, younger children tend to have a more difficult time thoroughly cleaning their teeth, meaning that the acids are given time to eat through the enamel, leading to cavities. Fluoride helps to protect the teeth by joining with the crystalline structure of the tooth, making it harder, and more acid-resistant.
How Can My Child Get the Fluoride Necessary for Protection?
Fluoride is available in many different forms. It is available in small amounts in certain foods, which can then be absorbed by the body to contribute to the development of your child’s permanent teeth. Fluoridated water (treated water in which fluoride has been added) is a common way that fluoride is received by both children and adults alike. There are also fluoride supplements available for young children when there is no access to fluoridated water.
When your child’s permanent teeth have fully erupted, fluoride can then be absorbed through the surface of the teeth themselves. There are a few different ways in which this can be done. One way is with the use of a fluoridated toothpaste. Toothpaste helps to ensure that your child is getting enough fluoride on a daily basis to help strengthen the teeth against acid attacks. It is recommended that children aged 2 to 6 use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste when they brush and that children younger than two should use an amount just about the size of a grain of rice. Children under six months should not receive fluoride.
In our office, we also offer fluoride treatments, which can be applied at the end of your child’s biannual cleaning. These treatments are painted onto the teeth and left to absorb into the enamel. The fluoride can also collect at the gum line, which can then help to protect the adult teeth as they emerge through the gum tissue.
Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Fluoride?
While fluoride is essential for the development and health of your child’s teeth, there is such a thing as too much fluoride. Overexposure to fluoride can result in a condition known as fluorosis, or white spots on the surfaces of permanent teeth. In severe cases, fluorosis can lead to a darker discoloration. Fluorosis is not harmful, but it can affect the appearance of your child’s smile. Once your child’s permanent teeth have fully developed (usually by the age of 9), the risk for fluorosis disappears. We can help you to determine how much fluoride your child needs to ensure that they are getting enough to protect their teeth, but aren’t getting too much to do cosmetic damage.
If you are interested in learning more about fluoride treatments for your child, contact Douglas L. Park, DDS, Pediatric Dentistry today at (503) 663-8141.